In a dramatic move, coalition whip Idit Silman announced Wednesday that she is quitting the coalition and will instead work to form a new government.
Silman’s announcement, which she said was due to the “harming” of Jewish identity in Israel, means that the coalition no longer has a majority.
“I will not abet the harming of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the people of Israel. I will continue to try to persuade my friends to return home and form a right-wing government,” Silman said in a statement. “I know I am not the only one who feels this way. Another government can be formed in this Knesset.”
According to reports, Silman did not tell Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — head of the Yamina party of which she is a member — of the move in advance, leaving the premier to learn through media reports that he had lost his government majority.
Silman’s announcement means the government will no longer have a majority, and will only be able to pass legislation with support from opposition lawmakers. The only party that would perhaps provide it with votes for some legislation would be the Joint List, but it support would only serve to further alienate coalition parties on the right.
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to congratulate Silman for what he termed her “courageous move.”
The lawmaker was frequently harassed and said she was physically attacked at a gas station — at the time, Netanyahu suggested that Silman could have made up the story of the assault in order to tar opponents of the coalition.
Silman has recently been very vocal regarding issues of religion and state in Israel.
Wednesday’s announcement came in the wake of a clash between her and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the left-wing Meretz party, earlier this week in which she attacked him for ordering hospitals to allow patients and visitors to bring hametz, or non-kosher-for-Passover food, onto their premises during the upcoming Passover holiday — though the minister was only instructing institutions to abide by a top court ruling on the matter.
Silman demanded that Horowitz release guidelines on the matter, warning that his actions are “crossing the red line” and that he should be fired.
Last week she came out firmly against the so-called Western Wall compromise, a deal that would grant additional freedoms to non-Orthodox streams of Judaism at the Jerusalem holy site.
“I was very moved to hear MK Idit Silman’s statement, and I congratulate her on behalf of the masses of the people of Israel who wish for this moment,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.
Likud ran a scathing, months-long online campaign against Yamina joining the government that ousted Netanyahu, with Silman a key target.
“There’s a status quo with the Western Wall that I don’t think is going to change. All of the attention around this is just demagoguery. This is a house of prayer. There’s a minority — a Reform minority — that is making a lot of noise as though it’s the majority. We need to say the truth: That’s not the case,” Silman said in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster. “This government and certainly we — or at least I — need to preserve the Orthodox character of the Western Wall.”